Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

Proposed Legislation Includes Historic Federal Investment in Built Environment

August 19, 2021 • Pearce Crosland

The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure package last week by a 69-30 vote. The $1.2 trillion package now heads to the House of Representatives, where it awaits passage before heading to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The legislation will invest more than $550 billion in new spending on physical infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges, airports, seaports, broadband and electric grid spending, among a host of others.

A Focus on Renewables and Resilience

This legislation represents the most significant climate change legislation to come out of Congress in years. It allocates more than $150 billion for renewable, clean energy and to develop programs to make communities more resilient. Additionally, it provides tens of billions of dollars to fight drought and protect against and fight wildfires, flooding and erosion. The legislation also directs federal dollars towards a number of smaller projects and programs, including low-emission vehicles and transit vehicles, cleaner air and seaports and electric vehicle charging stations. (Read BOMA International’s policy brief, Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations: Considerations for CRE.)

Included in the package is the first federal funding for green jobs, renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects. The package also calls for new programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and new rulemakings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. DOE will have broad scope on these projects, as the legislation did not designate funds for specific projects; rather, it allows DOE to determine the best course of action. Many of the provisions were originally part of an energy bill backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that cleared the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month.

The bipartisan agreement also makes investments to tackle the largest contributors to emissions, which include transportation and energy production. BOMA International will remain actively engaged in the process as Congress begins to address other policies that were left out of the first package. These include clean energy tax credits, retrofit and renovation grants and credits, and other initiatives that would directly impact the commercial real estate industry.

What’s Next

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives to await passage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has stood firm in her commitment to only pass this legislation in tandem with the $3.5 trillion budget package addressing the social infrastructure pieces of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) circulated a notice informing his colleagues that the House will cut short their recess period and reconvene Monday, August 23, to take up a number of legislative items, including infrastructure.

Moderate members of the House Democratic Caucus signed on to a Dear Colleague letter last week urging Speaker Pelosi to take a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package or risk losing their support for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. Moderates argued that the Speaker is holding the bipartisan agreement as leverage in getting a larger package to the floor for a vote. To ease concerns from moderate lawmakers who want to see the infrastructure bill pass, Speaker Pelosi asked the House Rules Committee on Sunday to explore a rule to advance both the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure bill simultaneously. The rule would advance the bipartisan bill procedurally, but not pass it.

The House is expected to return this coming Monday to consider the aforementioned rule in hopes of passing the budget resolution on Tuesday—unlocking the reconciliation process—and opening the House floor for debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Speaker Pelosi can only afford to lose three Democratic votes and still pass the budget resolution without any Republican support.

BOMA International will be monitoring the reconciliation process and engaging on issues pertinent to the commercial real estate industry. Below is a brief overview of the key provisions included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Roads and Bridges

The deal calls for investing $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects, including $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation. The investments would focus on resilience, equity and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Transit and Rail

The investments would focus on resilience, equity and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. The deal would also invest $66 billion in passenger and freight rail. Included in the package is $12 billion in partnership grants for intercity rail service, including high-speed rail.

Broadband Upgrades

The bill would provide a $65 billion investment in improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure. It also aims to help lower the price households pay for internet service by requiring federal funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan, by creating price transparency and by boosting competition in areas where existing providers aren’t providing adequate service. It would also create a permanent federal program to help more low-income households access the internet.

Electric Vehicles

The bill would provide $7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries, aiming to deliver thousands of electric school buses to districts across the country. Another $7.5 billion would go toward building a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers.

Power Infrastructure

The plan includes $73 billion to shift the country from fossil fuels to clean energy. It invests in updated power infrastructure and research in technology like nuclear, carbon capture and clean hydrogen.

BOMA International’s advocacy team will continue to monitor legislative activity and provide analysis of any potential impacts this legislation might pose for the commercial real estate industry.

For more information, contact Pearce Crosland, BOMA International’s Director of Federal Affairs, at